The premise of this article is actually really simple:
We get exactly what we want in the end.
Every time. No exceptions.
I was with a bunch of high school buddies last night and we went out on the town. It was glorious. A lot of fun was had.
As I spoke with everyone and saw what they were up to, I realized two things.
Their version of success was different than mine.
They’re all exactly where they want to be in life.
They boasted about their sales jobs. They showed each other pictures of all the girls they were hooking up with. They talked about their apartments in downtown Baltimore.
I was happy for them. I really was. I don’t want what they want, but at least they’re happy, right?
I’m not here to rain on their parade. I’m not here to say I’m better than them or something — I’m just going to say a few simple things..
Success is relative. Some dream bigger than others. And at some point in the past, we wanted to be EXACTLY where we are right now.
That’s why we’re here.
And that’s why we need to be fucking careful.
You Actually Do Find Success, No Matter What
Success to you is your own thing. That may look like a promotion at work. That may look like having a family. That may look like traveling the world.
Whatever we aspire to get, we get.
This is the part you say something like “Well Tom, I aspire to be a millionaire, but I’m not a millionaire bro.”
Let’s get one thing straight: You don’t aspire to be a millionaire, you aspire to make another $5,000 this year at work.
Our aspirations become ACTUAL aspirations only when we seriously believe we can attain them.
You don’t seriously believe you can make a million dollars. That’s why you haven’t.
And that’s the ONLY reason you haven’t.
I think a lot of people have two different “classes” of aspirations. On one hand we have aspirations we seriously believe we can attain.
Like starting a family, falling in love, or getting a promotion at work.
On the other we have a bunch of ambitions that are so far outside the realm of what we believe is possible. AKA becoming a millionaire, starting our own business, or traveling around the world indefinitely.
I mean, shit, that can’t ACTUALLY happen, right?
So we settle for what’s realistic. Starting a family becomes success to us (a very worthy idea of success), or getting a raise.
Or, for my friends, banging every girl in sight, living in Baltimore, and working 60 hours a week selling shit to people.
Be Careful Who You Aspire To Be
“Although how can you know Who you are till you know What you want, which you don’t? So then which do you pick?”
― James Lapine, Into the Woods
The idea that success knocks on EVERY person’s doorstep is likely a new one. Most of us think (including me for a while) that success means making lots of money, being free, and generally just doing whatever it is we want to do.
Freedom is success for a lot of us, I think.
That’s the story I keep seeing on Medium, anyway.
But this is not the actual endgame for the vast majority of the world.
The actual, tangible endgame for so many is smaller than making millions or any of that other crazy stuff.
We know we can’t get that, so success becomes something less to us. It metamorphosizes into something else. And that’s completely okay. You just have to be careful about what it turns into.
Success Is Only Limited By Our Imagination
My heart sort of bleeds for people who have put more cyclopean versions of success on a shelf somewhere to collect dust.
My friends from last night are awesome. They’re generous people. They’re a lot of fun.
But sometimes I feel like they’re limiting themselves. I try to be tolerant of other people’s versions of success, but theirs isn’t all that flattering if you want me to be honest.
They asked me what I do and I told them I blog and that I’ll be traveling indefinitely soon and all this other stuff.
They honestly didn’t give a shit. It was as uninteresting to them as watching the grass grow.
The truth is the portrait of success to many of my friends in Bel Air has been stolen from others. We see what everybody else does, and tells us to do, and we do it, too without questioning anything.
But what if there’s something else to this equation?
What if we only need to get exposed to another way of living to realize THAT’S what we actually want?
What if what we’re chasing right now is good, but not maximizing our full potential?
You’re (Probably) Limiting Yourself
You have to realize that your version of success is probably limited. It’s limited because you’ve only traveled THIS much, talked to THIS many people, and done THIS many things.
We are a culmination of all the experiences we’ve ever had. All our conversations, education, friends, family, and random people we watch on TV have told us what we need to be doing.
We’ve generated our own personal version of success from our experiences.
I know there’s probably a much more efficient way for me to be running my business. But you see, I’m the culmination of every piece of information I’ve consumed about being an online entrepreneur.
My goals have been generated from the ideas of people like Mariah Coz, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, and so many others.
I’ve stood on their shoulders, and failed a whole hell of a lot to get here.
My version of success is limited. There’s things I don’t know yet. Probably 80% of what I want right now doesn’t actually matter.
At least I know that, though.
What Do We Do Now, Tom?
Happiness is what we all aim for. We think certain things will give us happiness, so we aspire to get them. Then when we get them (and we WILL), we aren’t happy, and we want something else.
Expand your horizons. Talk to more people. Gather more information. Try to understand what actually makes people happy, and aspire to attain THAT.
Now we’re talking.
Finally, realize that nobody is perfect, and that you aren’t any better than anyone else, and you’ll start to see the gaps in your own thinking.
Then you will change.
I hope to change right alongside you, for I am just as incomplete as anybody else.